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James Farquhar

While researching my Family Tree I discovered my 3rd Great Grandfather James Farquhar (born abt 1792) of Garmouth/Elgin had a criminal record. After finding out that it was for kidnapping I was intrigued and delved further to find out the facts.

This all started on or around the 10/11 March 1820.

James Farquhar  and 3 other accomplices kidnapped Ballie Francis Taylor because he and his friends supported The Earl of Seafield's candidate in the up and coming election for members of Parliament for the Elgin Burghs. It appears the kidnapped Ballie Francis Taylor was led on an adventure which lasted 3 weeks, long enough to keep him out of the way till it was too late to call the Election.He was released in Inverness unhurt, but arrived back in Elgin too late. Following this kidnapping the Grants of Strathspey were none too pleased that their candidate didn't get elected and they marched on Elgin to Grant Lodge,  to demonstrate their anger and to cause poor Lady Grant into hiding. This led to the last uprising in Scotland and also to a change in the law where-after all elections were held by closed ballot!

The original handwritten witness accounts of the riot and subsequent kidnap is apparently quite a historical event as it led to the 'last' Clan uprising in 1820.

Here is an abridged version....

James Farquhar, Carrier or hirer, James Grant, shoemaker, Alexander Christie, butcher and William Brander, square wright were all accused of kidnapping Francis Taylor, merchant and Bailie of Elgin to prevent him from calling a meeting (as Magistrate) of the Council to fix a date for the election of a 'delegate' to be elected as Member of Parliament for the Burgh's of Elgin.

They were the 'ringleaders' of a riot, who were against Colonel Grant of Grant becoming MP and were in favour of Lord Fife.  It seems that at the time, voting rights were only given to 'worthies' of the city. I am not sure how they were defined, but the Council was split between the two candidates, so the plan was to kidnap one or more councillors so they couldn't vote for their man.

Part of a witness account states....'a great ferment excited in the town of Elgin about the General Election of a Member of Parliament for the District and Burgh of which Elgin one.  That at this time the council was divided into two factions - one of which declared for the interest of the Earl of Fife and the other for that of Colonel Grant of Grant.....'

Lord Fife was in the habit of visiting Elgin and generally throwing his money about to win votes. There are articles about Colonel Grant, who seems to have been a bit of a bad type too!

'[4 men of the] trades of Elgin were to carry away by force one or two of those councillors whom they considered hostile to Lord Fife.....'

Two councillors seemed to have been picked out, Francis Taylor and one other, who was fortunately able to take sanctuary in Grant Lodge (latterly Elgin Library).

Poor Francis Taylor however was 'led away by the arm' by James Farquhar, held in Bishopmill (or Bishopmiln) in James' parents house, transported to Hopeman, put in an open topped boat for the night, sailed across to Sutherlandshire near Brora, travelled via Golspie, and was released in Inverness. He was well treated, wined and dined at various safe houses and Inns along the way, relating later that that he was somewhat surprised that it was at no expense to himself and that his captors were gentlemanly towards him. When in Inverness he was approached and asked if he was captive, he said he was and was then released into the hands of a Tytler. He made his way back via Forres and eventually back to Elgin.

Part of a witness report warned that care should be taken whilst investigating the plot as William McKinnie (McKimmie), step father of James Farquhar is known to be a very violent man; a merchant, old soldier and innkeeper at New Duffus whose spouse was Elizabeth Russel (my 4th Great Grandmother and the mother of James Farquhar) and so care should be taken when questioning her. (His mother had been married twice.)

After the kidnapping the Grant men having marched on Elgin, terrorised the city for a number of days, and were generally pretty upset. Apparently from the accounts, all parties involved ended up in the pub, got uproariously drunk and the whole matter was settled with no major injuries barr a few broken windows.

There are many articles in Newspapers from the time and much later and this became quite an infamous event in the History if Elgin.

There is  a booklet called 'The Baillies Great Adventure' written by a Douglas G.J. Stewart held at Elgin Family History Centre.

I never managed to find out the punishment given to James Farquhar for his involvement in the kidnapping but I did find out that he lived to a ripe old age at his home in North College Street, Elgin and unfortunately died of Typhus fever in 1859 and is buried in Elgin Cathedral.

Karen Donald

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